Cats are notorious for lounging around and generally taking it easy. Sunbathing, napping, and slinking around can appear to be all they do sometimes (an enviable life, indeed), but they need exercise and stimulation just like the rest of us! In fact, if your cat(s) seem to be a bit too lazy, it’s more likely that they are just bored. Creating an environment suitable to their needs and setting aside time every day to stimulate their activity will help keep their physical and mental health thriving.
So, my fur-riends, you may be wondering where to even start! What do cats want? What do they need? Knowing what their natural instincts are and how to encourage them is the key. Cats are natural predators and explorers. They love high places and climbing, hunting and pouncing, exploration and discovery; anything that mimics their actions in the wild. The following are several ways you can create a playground for your cats and satisfy those wild urges!
Creating vertical spaces for your cat gives them the ability to climb, seek high ground, look down on their peasants, explore, and play. Okay maybe not the peasants part but who are we really kidding? Install shelving along wall space and watch them cross from platform to platform. You can even connect them to tall structures along the way and create kitty obstacle courses throughout the house. This is also a great way to maximize exploration space for multi-cat homes, giving them plenty of playground and room for each other to venture about without getting in each other’s way.
Windows are like TV to cats, so ensure they have the space to perch and “window and chill”, if you will. If your windowsill cannot accommodate your cat, you can purchase a perch to attach to the window (a perch…ase… hey I warned there’d be puns!) Placing a bird feeder or hummingbird feeder outside the window can attract even more entertainment for them as well.
Cats love to scratch and for good reason. It helps sharpen their claws, sheds the outside layer of the claw, marks their territory, and is part of their stretching routine. Having scratching posts available will keep them from doing their habitual scratching somewhere other than your furniture. However, you can’t just put them where you would like, you need to put them where they want them. If you notice they are still choosing your favorite chair over a scratch post, move the post closer to the chair. Also having vertical posts, either fastened to the wall or standing on their own, will help them get a better stretch and really dig their claws in.
Toys are super important to have around. There are several varieties of toys they enjoy such as laser pointers, feather wands, furry mice, and more! Having several options around will keep them interested, as well as switching out toys or putting them away after play. If they have the same thing around all the time, they’re only going to get bored again. Toys are also a fantastic way to interact with your cat, not only encouraging exercise but bonding with them, too. Take at least 15-20 minutes a day to play with your cat. Cats are usually most ready to play around dusk and dawn, so pay attention to their moods and choose that time to play with them. Should they not be interested, not to worry- cats are also known for doing exactly as they please. So, if they’re not ready to play, don’t force it on them.
While we humans are raised to “not play with our food”, cats beg to differ. This is another great tool to stimulate their natural hunting instincts and keep their brains busy. You can buy or DIY a contraption that releases their food or treats through openings or holes. This way, they have to work for the food and earn it as their hunting instincts so desire. Another trick is to place food or water in several places throughout your home, encouraging them to explore and roam around even more. Even something as simple as throwing their treats for them can help them be more active and, again, harness the hunter within.
There are so many ways to keep your cat active and healthy. While they do lounge and sleep quite a bit (on average around 2/3 of the day), exercise and stimulation are incredibly important. Cats that are overweight may be cute, but obesity can lead to a plethora of issues including diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems, ligament damage, and more. In addition to maintaining their weight, an active and busy cat will have fewer behavioral issues. They are very intelligent creatures and need to be challenged in that way. They need an environment that taps into their natural instincts and provides a safe arena to explore. And hey, you can always get another cat to keep them busy, but be warned- that’s how it starts! 😉